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Cross-Cultural Affinities

Emersonian Transcendentalism and Senghorian Negritude


Manyaka Toko Djockoua

The book, through textual analyses, brings concepts of Senghorian Negritude and Emersonian ideas into a cross-cultural dialogue, and thus opens up a completely new perspective in research on the history of ideas. It synthesizes the diverse cultural, literary, philosophical and religious trends which have impacted on the complex and elusive fields of Transcendentalism and Negritude. Focusing on the current debate on influences and affinities in literary and cultural studies, the book shows that African religions and philosophy have influenced the formation of American Transcendentalism.

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3 Family and Educational Influences


Tracing the roots of Transcendentalism and Negritude has shown that similar religious, philosophical, and literary currents have had a significant effect on the American and African movements. The two authors’ life experiences may also explain their similar responses to these diverse currents in their essays and poems. Emerson’s and Senghor’s similar family and educational backgrounds influenced them in analogous ways. These influences may explain the resemblances in their writings, even if both men wrote in two different epochs: the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

Emerson, one of the founding fathers of Transcendentalism, had an effect on his contemporaries and on later generations of American writers. Today, his essays and lectures still draw many critics’ attention. He influenced Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Dreiser, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens and Ralph Ellison, to mention just a few. Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 25, 1803. The father, a Unitarian minister, died when the son was only eight. The family lived on the charity of the church and on the financial support of Aunt Mary Moody Emerson. At nine, Emerson was sent to the Boston public Latin School.

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